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Internship focused on fighting the spread of invasive Asian carp

Man in U.S. Coast Guard uniform

Jordan Sanchez (photo provided)

My name is Jordan Sanchez, and I am majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies-Environmental Management in Agriculture and Natural Resources and minoring in business administration. I had the incredible opportunity to be an intern with the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee (ACRCC) during the Fall 2020 semester. The committee works to mitigate the spread of invasive Asian Carp species into the Great Lakes and control the populations and spread within the inland rivers.

Background

During the 1960s and 1970s, several species of Asian Carp were brought to the U.S and implanted into the inland rivers in order to help control algal blooms that were harming local agriculture, transportation, and the health of people living near the rivers. As is often the case, these foreign species were greeted by a surplus of food and no native predators to control their growth. The Asian Carp population boomed and now the fish are responsible for tens of millions of dollars’ worth of damage each year, not to include the roughly $100 million that goes to detection and suppression each year. The ultimate fear is that the carp will make their way into the Great Lakes and begin causing damage in the billions by interrupting commercial fishing and the fragile local ecosystems.

My Responsibilities

As an active-duty member of the U.S. Coast Guard, I was placed into a natural role where I acted as a liaison between the Coast Guard Auxiliary, the Army Corps of Engineers (ACoE), the ACRCC, and District 9 of the Coast Guard. As a liaison, I ensured there was a constant line of communication to and from the Coast Guard for all matters pertaining to the status of the Asian Carp and the series of barriers and deterrents that are being used within the navigable waterways of Illinois and Indiana.

The main project that I was a part of was the construction and testing process of an electric, underwater fish barrier on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal (CSSC). This barrier is made to produce 2 volts per inch of electric power into the canal in order to deter fish from passing through. This electric barrier is the last line of defense between the invasive carp and the Great Lakes, so it is of great importance that it functions properly. My main responsibility for this project was to report to the Coast Guard and the ACRCC with updates from the ACoE regarding the status and testing of the barrier. With my background in environmental pollution response and maritime safety, I also provided input about safety measures and pollution controls that I felt needed to be created or improved to mitigate those risks.

Diagram of Electric Barriers located near Romeoville, Ill., in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.

A diagram of the Electric Barriers located near Romeoville, Ill., in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal (CSSC). (image provided by US Army Corps of Engineers Chicago District)

Takeaways

This opportunity was extremely beneficial to me and I am thankful for everyone that has been a part of making it happen. Through my internship, I was able to learn about environmental sustainability first-hand. The ability to work directly with scientists, engineers, and policymakers provided me with an unrivaled opportunity to learn about how things like this really work. I was also able to network with professionals that have already helped me in my career path.

I strongly urge everyone to seek opportunities and internships that allow you to work with people in your future career field and to foster relationships with the professionals in that field.